End of Fear: when true love and a cult collide, who wins?
End of Fear: when true love and a cult collide, who wins?
A love story about a couple who's relationship was destroyed by a cult, and the international effort to reach out and empower her.
A love story about a couple who's relationship was destroyed by a cult, and the international effort to reach out and empower her. Read more
This is the amazing true-life story as told by writers Melissa Houghton and Steven Sohlstrom of their painful and tragic struggle with the End of Fear organization. Their relationship was picture perfect at the start, but it quickly devolved into chaos when the cult made it their mission to have Melissa's complete submission...and her life savings. Before long, Steven was in jail (retaliation for the documentary he made to expose the cult) and Melissa was emotionally entrapped in a visa wedding overseas, but that was only part of their epic journey. What occurred next was a spectacle that played out on the world stage as a series of live-broadcasts began to reach out to empower Melissa, and the cult began to slowly crumble from within. Now, more than fours years later, Melissa has finally acknowledged the truth and has begun to lash out at her former organization. Survival of Melissa's relationship with Steven was not an option in 2014. Will they finally be empowered to determine their own path to closure?
Told from two wildly different perspectives, somewhere in the middle lies the truth. Steven tells his side of the story from the perspective of unconditional love and perseverance, and Melissa from the perspective of a victim of fear and false narratives, conditioned to hate and attack Steven on behalf of the cult. The result is a fascinating, emotionally gripping and suspenseful perspective from the inside of a cult and the emotional toll it takes on victims and loved ones alike. It is a true story of love, hope and perseverance as well as a very important cautionary tale.
Framed as a very touching and tragic love story, we follow the journey of Minnesota filmmaker and sailor Steven Sohlstrom after the chance meeting of Melissa Houghton in the restaurant where he was working. It was his first night working as a waiter after returning home from Hollywood 15 years earlier. He had no want to return to his blossoming film career without sharing it with the woman he loved, whoever she might be.
After so many years, it seemed unlikely that the dream which most inspired his life and art would ever even come true. Enter young english professor Melissa Houghton, a Korean adoptee who was raised in a small South Dakota town a few hours from Saint Cloud. That evening, Melissa dined with a short gentleman with very curly hair. “Probably her date,” Steven thought.
The immediate attraction would not be revealed until the next evening when, this time, Melissa arrived alone. Steven recognized her immediately by the soft peppering of freckles, her long black hair with a gentle curl, and of course her glasses. She was wearing her green colored spring jacket and her arrival stunned Steven. “Table for one?” he asked her. “I’m a creature of habit,” she replied softly. After she ordered her Thai Tea with Fresh Spring Rolls and we discovered that we were both writers, we got to know each other a bit more. “Does your name really have “soul” in it?” She asked.
Before parting we promised to look each other up on Facebook. There was a writers group meeting the following Monday that we could go to, but we never made it to Monday. “How about we meet up on Saturday?” came the suggestion over Facebook. I remember that Saturday morning in May so vividly when ice “fell” out the sky, and It was unseasonably cold. My truck wasn’t running and I had to ride my bike the 7 miles into town to meet her. There was an intensely cold headwind. At one point I had to get off from the bike and walk it. My attitude was; “I can’t let this stop me from getting to Melissa. I have to persevere.” That attitude, even before we met for our first date, would painfully become the theme for the next 4 years.
When I arrived at “7 Elephants Cafe” which was a block away from the restaurant, she had a beaming smile as I sat down in the booth across from her. She seemed so shy but determined to power through her insecurities. We were first getting to know one another so there was a lot to talk about. I was so relieved that she told me she was a tomboy and grew up around horses. I remember distinctly reacting to her, “Listening to you talk is like reading a well written novel.” I discovered Melissa page by fascinating page.
We set a pace that evening during our marathon date which would last more than 11 hours. (I still have the bag of chips from Jimmy Johns that we didn’t open) That pace continued for the next several months. We simply couldn’t get enough of each other. We became inseperable. We had something no words could describe. It was a perfect fit for 2 very unique, kind and very intelligent people. We didn’t try to find each other, but miraculously we did at a juncture in life when we both wanted a fresh start and to move on from our mistakes. There was so much we had in common. We called it serendipity but it was so much more.
On her birthday, our dating status would evolve as a lighting storm brought an intense downpour onto the roof of the car, and she was struggling to go to a very vulnerable place. “Can I touch you?” She asked. I agreed as she caressed the skin of my arm. Her emotional state was so unusual and childlike. This woman was not like anyone else to compare to. I finally saw a different side of her. “I knew you were adorable,” I whispered. I couldn’t help but to fall deeply in love with her. We began to kiss passionately. As the rain poured down it was as if we were in a romantic movie. We were actually about to embark on a perfectly scripted tragedy.
We carried on in our new life together. I could finally breath again. There was no longer a question of where I should be or concern for a schedule to keep. I was with Melissa and that was all that mattered in the world. We would spend weeks on end never being more than a few feet apart. If I was with Melissa it was exactly where I wanted and needed to be. My life had been on pause for so long for fear of experiencing a moment without her. Life was finally happening. It came literally out of nowhere and I had to pinch myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.
"If only we could have met sooner,” she later said. These were very haunting and ironic words considering we would spend our next four years apart. In spite of how much were in love and our devotion to each other, our relationship didn’t stand a chance.
The problem was that she didn’t exactly enter into the relationship alone. No matter how much we grew to love each other, I was technically always the third wheel. She entered into the relationship with the worst sort of parasite; a living persistent nightmare that would subtly keep her immersed in a world of false narratives, and just as subtly drain her bank account. This had been going on for years and it was about to get much worse. A perfect storm was on the horizon. I was the only tree that she had to lash onto during this hurricane and it was a good thing because this tree wouldn’t blow down in any storm. Abandoning her precious heart and mind in the midst of this intense manipulation was just never an option. I certainly was going to pay the price for my devotion to Melissa as the narrative was about to take another unexpected turn.
Risks and challenges
"People will want us to fail..." Melissa famously said to me during the summer of 2013. These words became hauntingly prophetic in terms of what would soon happen to us. I didn't understand what she possibly could have meant. Who would want us to fail? Certainly not anyone that cared about us. I think she meant people envious of what we had together, possibly people who had sensitive egos and other issues, and whoever might have something to gain for our loss. But, people who care about us would not want us to fail. Correct?
Now more than ever, failure is not an option for Melissa and I. It's simply not an option until we work through some things together. We simply want some closure. Anyone who is aware of our story and legitimately cares about us will understand. It's been a very long time coming. We have suffered greatly.
Melissa and I are writers and working out the best way to share our story. Some of you may not be aware of the origin story for how Melissa came to be in Portugal. It is a very tragic and painful story. Painful because of the way it was forced on us, and tragic because we would undoubtedly still be together today. If we had not been separated geographically, by time, and failed communication, nothing may have kept us apart. It literally took a village to divide us. It was bigger than just the EOF, Melissa suffered an immense betrayal by people that she was supposed to be able to trust, including members of my own family. We were literally practically inseparable as a couple. We were planning to be a family. We had absolutely everything going for us. What happened is utterly senseless. She has no other way of knowing the true story aside from hearing it from me. We are unraveling the lies by listening to each other.
This is a key elements of our story:...what was Steve/nMelissa was taken from us by overwhelming emotional force and completely intentionally. It WAS "all about the cult" afterall. I have had the horror of knowing this all throughout our story, Melissa is just coming to terms with it now. The only proper and empowering ending to our story is that we take back what was taken from us...and that was the power to decide on our own the fate of our relationship.
Even if is to remain apart...it has to be OUR decision and not forced on us by a cult. It is our way of standing together in defiance of what they did to us.
We would like to ask your understanding, space, and privacy during this complicated time. There are a lot of lies and manipulation to work through and trust to be restored. It takes time. For what we've been through the last 4 years. We clearly deserve it.
We are taking our tragic story and intend to share it with the world. Doing this can accomplish a lot of positive things for us both. In terms of practicality, because it is a joint project, it will accomplish immunity from defamation lawsuits between us. It will rebuild both of our professional reputations. It is an opportunity to share our truths as we experienced it and express it true to our artistic talent as writers. Like we used to be, our stories are also inseparable. This is an incredible professional opportunity for us both as writers. This book has all of the makings to be a best seller. The film rights won't be moved for less than $100,000. The royalties are restitution of the great financial loss incurred. This is truly more than a life changing opportunity for us...once again, it may be the best way or only way to close this chapter of our lives. It is taking a very harmful life event and turning it into an opportunity to grow.
Certain people may NOT want us to fail. For instance Steve Andrews. Melissa is the only one with enough power to temper my blistering condemnation for the pivotal role he played in the permanence, duration and magnitude of Melissa's exploitation. What he has the potential to discover at the turning of the page might very well singe the blue beard right off his face. He will NOT want us to fail.
"People will want us to fail." If so, I have the hindsight to demand that we know exactly who and why? If you want Melissa to fail at something that may be the professional opportunity of a lifetime as a writer, look her in the eye and tell her exactly why you would want to stand in the way of her success after what she has been through.
And so, come forward. Who will want us to fail this time? Who will want Melissa to fail? This is an opportunity of a lifetime for her, it is an extraordinary professional and financial opportunity. Again, who wants her to fail now? Certainly not anyone who truly cares about her. Failure was never an option. It certainly isn't now.
We ask that you show your support for us both during this monumental work of writing in progress.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter